With seven weeks to go until the European Parliament elections, all the signs are pointing towards an absolute historic blow-out for the Labour Party.
And, as things stand, Malta will most likely get the following MEPs: Miriam Dalli, Alfred Sant, Josianne Cutajar and Cyrus Engerer (PL) and Roberta Metsola and Frank Psaila (PN). A survey commissioned by Lovin Malta for its Lovin Tomorrow newspaper shows that public support for PL currently stands at 43.8%, while support for PN currently stands at a mere 23.8%, with the remainder either stating that they don’t yet know who to vote for or that they intend to boycott the election.
This means that if the election were to be held tomorrow, Labour would triumph by an eye-watering 74,000 votes, more than double the margin with which it beat PN in the 2017 general election.
Worryingly for the Nationalist Party, the gap between the two parties is only increasing, and at 20 points represents a five point increase since MaltaToday’s survey a month ago.
Everything at this stage indicates that Labour will wrest at least one of the PN’s three European Parliament seats away from it, giving it a 4-2 majority in Strasbourg.
Whether it will manage to also snatch its fifth seat will depend on the mentality of Nationalist voters a few months after the party risked slipping into civil war after the wife of its leader Adrian Delia accused him of domestic violence.
If PN voters loyal to Delia boycott candidates they view as disloyal to the leader and if PN voters sceptical of Delia refuse to vote for the loyalists, the lack of intra-party vote transfers will benefit the PL and could see Labour winning a fifth seat.
Since the European Parliament elections depend so much on the transfer of votes, it is difficult for a survey to predict exactly who will be elected, but voters’ first choices of candidates provide some interesting indications.
Arnold Cassola was erroneously listed as an AD candidate; he has resigned from AD and is running as an independent candidate
Labour MEP Miriam Dalli is set to be the most popular candidate, with 17.2% of respondents choosing her, while fellow MEP Alfred Sant will almost definitely take Labour’s second seat, with 10.9% of respondents plumping for the former Prime Minister.
As for the Nationalist Party, MEP Roberta Metsola is a dead cert for re-election, with her 12.4% score making her the second most popular candidate nationwide.
The remaining three seats remain very much up in the air and the battle for them could very well go down to the wire.
The PL is expected to elect two out of Nadur councillor Josianne Cutajar, EU special envoy Cyrus Engerer and former PL youth wing president Alex Agius Saliba, with mere percentage points separating the trio at this stage.
Cutajar, the party’s youngest candidate, is currently in the lead with 1.4%, but she has dropped three percentage points since MaltaToday’s last survey. Engerer is now second with 1% after climbing by nine percentage points, and Agius Saliba is hot on his trail with 0.9%.
MEPs Miriam Dalli (right) and Roberta Metsola (left) are the two most popular candidates
Everything will therefore depend on how capable these candidates are of attracting the second preference votes of Dalli and Sant, but Agius Saliba’s post-marriage decision to give his wife’s surname (Agius) more prominence than his own (Saliba) could very well give him an advantage.
This is thanks to the infamous ‘donkey vote’, whereby people vote for candidates based on the alphabetical order in which they appear on the ballot sheet.
From the PN’s side, NET TV journalist Frank Psaila, renowned internally for being by Delia’s side since the start of his leadership campaign, is the party’s second most popular candidate, standing at 4.9% of the vote. However, MEP David Casa, who has made a name for himself due to his fiery rhetoric against the government, has climbed by a substantial two points since the last survey, and at 3.1% is now the PN’s third most popular candidate.
MEP David Casa (left) could well to lose his seat to Frank Psaila (right)
Political veteran and incumbent MEP Francis Zammit Dimech has remained stagnant at 1.3%, while sociologist Michael Briguglio (1%), Gozitan MP David Stellini (1%) and NET journalist Dione Borg (0.9%) have registered in a survey for the first time.
Everything also indicates that this election will be yet another dismal showing for Malta’s third parties and independents, with only Alternattiva Demokratika leader Carmel Cacopardo and his predecessor Arnold Cassola, now an independent candidate, featuring in the survey, both at a mere 0.1%.